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My Friend Sancho

My first novel, My Friend Sancho, is now on the stands across India. It is a contemporary love story set in Mumbai, and was longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize 2008. To learn more about the book, click here.


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Click here for more about my publisher, Hachette India.


And ah, my posts on India Uncut about My Friend Sancho can be found here.


Bastiat Prize 2007 Winner

Category Archives: WTF

Where Your Taxes Go: 42

On golf buggies for the army.

I’m actually okay with that—if you want to attract good people to join the army and defend the country, one of the few functions of a government that I consider legitimate, then you should give them their perks. But what is WTF about this whole thing is that the army claimed it had spent this money on “silent reconnaissance vehicles for missions beyond enemy lines.”

I can totally imagine a Pakistani military convoy cruising outside Islamabad and suddenly coming across a golf buggy with an Indian general in it. They stop it immediately, and the Pak commanding officer asks the Indian, ‘WTF are you doing here?’ And the reply comes:

‘Have you seen the 18th hole? I think I’ve lost my way.’

(Link via email from Anand Bala. For more posts on taxes, click here.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 24 September, 2009 in India | News | Old memes | Taxes | WTF


Sleeping With The Alien

One more priceless case in the annals of taking offence. BBC reports that Nigeria’s government “is asking cinemas to stop showing a science fiction film, District Nine, that it says denigrates the country’s image.” Apparently the Nigerian ganglord in the film has the same surname as a former Nigerian president—Obasanjo—among other sins. Their information minister, Dora Akunyili, has been quoted as saying:

We feel very bad about this because the film clearly denigrated Nigeria’s image by portraying us as if we are cannibals, we are criminals.

The name [of] our former president was clearly spelt out as the head of the criminal gang and our ladies shown like prostitutes sleeping with extra-terrestrial beings.

Imagine the misunderstandings that this could lead to. For example, a Nigerian lady could be walking home from the supermarket when an alien steps in front of her. ‘Excuse me,’ says the Nigerian lady, ‘please let me pass.’

‘No,’ says the alien. ‘I am horny. First we will copulate.’

The Nigerian lady gasps. ‘Oh, how dare you? I am not that kind of woman.’

‘Gimme a break,’ says the alien. ‘I’ve watched District Nine. I know the truth. All Nigerian women sleep with aliens.’

Yes, yes, I know that’s a bit far-fetched. But I didn’t start it!

(Link via @nilanjanaroy.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 20 September, 2009 in Arts and entertainment | Dialogue | Freedom | News | WTF


Potency, Fertility and Marriage

While on the subject of treating people like cattle, CNN-IBN reports:

Veteran Tamil Actor Manorama says that couples should be made to take potency tests before getting married.

Manorama says it should be made compulsory for both men and women to produce medical certificates before getting married and in the case of the groom the certificate should prove that he is sexually potent.

“There should be a certification that he is potent and he doesn’t have HIV. In case of women… she is a woman and she’s fertile and does not have AIDS. And if the doctor gives a fake certificate, then he should be jailed,” said Manorama.

If two people choose to get married, it is surely a business of those two alone, and not of the state—or of Manorama. People get married for various reasons, including companionship, and a couple may choose to hitch up even if the guy isn’t potent or the girl isn’t fertile. So what? That’s their business alone, as long as they’re honest with each other.

And in any case, how is a doctor supposed to ascertain that a guy is potent? Will an issue of Playboy do the trick? What if images don’t do it for him? What if self-consciousness about getting aroused prevents him from getting aroused? Procedural problems abound—as anyone who’s ever been an awkward young man could tell you!

(Link via email from Meera.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 19 September, 2009 in Freedom | News | WTF


‘Tweet is a Very Lonely Man’

I was on Times Now yesterday defending Shashi Tharoor in this ridiculous Twitter controversy, going over pretty much the same points I’d made in my post, “A Cattle-Class Country?” The videos of that debate are embedded below the fold. I didn’t get too many chances to speak, but that’s okay, because Tom Vadakkan, the Congress spokesman, did—and he was hilarious. Check out this bit, which comes in the third video clip below:

Let me tell you something: I did a little research after you phoned me, to find out what is the basic cause for this tweet business. Some of the survey reports that I received was Tweet is a very lonely man, and he needs counselling.

There was much else that was WTF about the discussion, and I leave you to discover the rest of that for yourself! (Videos below the fold.)

Read more...

Posted by Amit Varma on 18 September, 2009 in Freedom | India | Politics | WTF


‘Other Top Stories’

A few moments ago, this is what a section of the ToI homepage looked like:

image

For a moment, I almost thought “Lenovo G550 Notebook” was a ToI headline—sure, it does say “ads by Google” below, but that’s small and you see it later. The font and the bullet point make it seem like it’s just another of the top stories on the site. Such it goes.

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And in case you’re wondering what Ayesha Takia has lashed out at Baba Ramdev for, well, the dude apparently said that all actors were “characterless”. Some actors complain about that themselves when they’re not getting any roles, but that’s not what the good Baba meant. Ah, well, whaddya expect?

Posted by Amit Varma on 18 September, 2009 in Arts and entertainment | India | Journalism | Media | News | WTF


A Cattle-Class Country?

This is a bizarre controversy. A couple of days ago, in response to a question about whether he would be travelling economy class, Shashi Tharoor tweeted:

... absolutely, in cattle class out of solidarity with all our holy cows!

It’s always nice to see a minister be light-hearted. Sadly, his party isn’t. He’s been rapped on the knuckles for this act, and the party spokesman, Jayanti Natarajan, said:

We totally condemn it (Tharoor’s comments). The statement is not in sync with our political culture. His remarks are not acceptable given the sensitivity of all Indians.

Certainly the party does not endorse it. It is absolutely insensitive. We find it unacceptable and totally insensitive.

We do not approve of this articulation. Thousands of people travel in economy class.

Firstly, the lady desperately needs a thesaurus. She is being insensitive to her readers/listeners by going on and on about ‘sensivity’ and how ‘insensitive’ it all is. Once was enough, no?

Secondly, her party needs a dictionary. The term ‘cattle class’ has not been coined by Tharoor, but is a commonly used term for economy class. If it is derogatory to anyone, it is to the airlines that give their customers so little space, and not to the customers themselves. So whose sensitivity are we talking about here? Air India and Jet?

I’m a bit bemused, actually, by what the Congress is up to these days. An austerity drive means nothing when the government continues wasting our taxes on the scale it is. And berating someone for using the term ‘cattle class’ is needlessly sanctimonious when, after six decades of mostly Congress governance, we have hundreds of millions of people who cannot afford the basic necessities of life. Hell, most people in this country live cattle-class. And here we have the Congress strutting around and talking the talk.

Oh, and showing rare unity in WTFness, the BJP’s also condemned Tharoor’s tweet. Is there not one political party in this country that understands English and can take a joke?

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On another note, Times Now has asked me to appear on their show, “Newshour”, to chat about this topic. It’s supposed to be tonight, and while the show runs from 9pm to 10pm, I’m told this segment starts at 9.30. They said it’s titled “A Tweet Too Far”, and if they imply that Tharoor should not be tweeting, I will defend him with as much gusto as I can manage. We all ask for transparency in government, and here you have a minister who’s actually in direct contact with so many of his countrymen, and everyone’s getting all het up. If I was in the Congress, I’d recognise this as a good thing, and encourage more of my ministers to go online. Anyway, such it goes.

(Previous posts on cows: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 , 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109, 110, 111.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 17 September, 2009 in India | News | Old memes | Cows | Personal | Politics | Small thoughts | WTF


Man Rapes Dog

It’s a tabloid dream, this one. A taxi driver in Mumbai was caught doing zabardasti with a bitch, and duly arrested. In the masterful clip below, a Mid Day reporter asks a bemused policeman the details of the case. Her theory—he must have been missing his wife. Immensely WTF, all of it:

And here’s another clip where the lady who chased and caught the alleged rapist enthusiastically gives details of what she witnessed. Note the dog barking in the background.

And here’s a Punjab Kesari report of it, in which the policeman with the culprit seems to be doing strange things to his nostril. Or is he thinking of the dude who once had section 377 slapped on him because he copulated with a buffalo’s nostril?

(Links via email from Sanjeev Naik.)

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On a more serious note, the question here, of whether the guy’s act should be a crime, depends on what rights you’re willing to grant a dog. (And how you ascertain its volition, for that matter.) There’s this famous ethics thought experiment where a guy buys a live chicken, takes it home, copulates with it, and then kills it, cleans it and eats it. Sure, it’s yucky—but is it immoral? If killing the chicken and eating it is acceptable, you have already stripped the chicken of any rights—so why should that other thing matter?

One easy answer in this case is that if the dog in question belonged to someone else, then the rapist was infringing on that person’s property rights. But what if the dog had belonged to the rapist? Building the grounds for prosecuting him would then lead us into pretty thorny philosophical terrain.

I don’t think Mid Day would be too concerned about that, though. The dude was missing his wife, and that’s that.

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Update: I just came across this fine quote by Charles de Gaulle: “The better I get to know men, the more I find myself loving dogs.”

Posted by Amit Varma on 17 September, 2009 in India | News | Small thoughts | WTF


Two-Headed Snakes (and the BJP)

The Telegraph tells us about two-headed snakes:

Such animals are often caught and preserved as lucky tokens but have very little chance of surviving in the wild anyway, especially as the heads have a tendency to attack each other.

And I straightaway thought of the BJP.

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On another note, Mumbai Mirror tells us that Sonia Gandhi recently inaugurated a Congress office in Mumbai that is “neither legal nor austere.” It’s been named Rajiv Gandhi Bhavan.

(Snake link, in another context, via email from Aadisht.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 15 September, 2009 in India | News | Politics | WTF


Beer is Against Indian Culture?

That, at least, seems to be the implication of the BJP’s recent behaviour in Jaipur. Apparently, a minister attended a “beer-promotion party”, and the ‘BJP Women Front’ protested. Their president was quoted as saying:

This is a shame for the minister who being a lady and holding portfolio of woman and child development attended the beer promotion party.

This reflects why the BJP is losing support everywhere. The constituency of anti-beer people isn’t very big, and most people reading this news will surely go ‘WTF?’ Sure, many women have problems with alcoholic husbands, but a beer promotion bash at what was reportedly a “posh hotel” has nothing to do with that. If the BJP Women Front wants to take up issues that matter to women, surely there are a hazaar other things at the grassroots they could focus on.

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On a broader note, much politics in India is, unfortunately, the politics of resentment. All identity politics is based on this—‘the other castes or communities have gotten ahead, vote for me, I’ll look after our interests.’ So is the communal politics the BJP exploits—there are, sadly, enough Hindus in India who resent Muslims for the BJP to have a vote bank there. And moral policing—if you’re not getting much action, you’ll resent anyone who is, and moral policing plays nicely to that constituency.

But beer? Who resents beer or beer drinkers?

Posted by Amit Varma on 14 September, 2009 in India | News | Politics | WTF


Baba Ramdev Teaches Yogic Jogging

After I tweeted earlier today about Baba Ramdev being invited to take part in Bigg Boss, my friend Anand Ramachandran asked me to check out his (Ramdev’s, not Anand’s) instructional video on Yogic Jogging on YouTube. Anand and I raided Landmark after that—their big annual sale is on—and over coffee, he described it in some detail for me. ‘No way, man,’ I dismissed him, ‘you’re exaggerating.’

He was understating.

I now urge you to watch Baba Ramdev teach Yogic Jogging:

The shots of the crowd doing Yogic Jogging in the middle are marvellously WTF. And look at the Baba himself—especially when he’s doing those high kicks and his dress is riding up. He’s already barechested—and hell, isn’t that a family audience out there?

This is the same guy, by the way, who claims to be able to “cure” homosexuality. I wonder if doing PT is part of the treatment.

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And imagine if Baba Ramdev starts teaching Yogic Jogging on Bigg Boss. I’m hoping he does end up as part of the show, and that they manage to get the likes of Sherlyn Chopra and (even better!) Mallika Sherawat on there as well. It sure would be fun to watch them, um, stay fit.

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Update: Via Nitya Pillai, here’s Baba Ramdev on how homosexuality is a disease. He sure can work a crowd—and his opposition in the debate in this particular clip is rather inept. It makes the blood boil, listening to this dude…

Posted by Amit Varma on 12 September, 2009 in India | WTF


The Third World War?

This is pretty bizarre. Reuters reports:

South Africa reacted angrily on Friday to a report that tests on its world champion runner Caster Semenya had found she was a hermaphrodite, threatening a “third world war” over the affair.

Athletics’ governing body declined to confirm the report in Australia’s Daily Telegraph newspaper, which said the 18-year-old runner had both male and female sexual characteristics.

The IAAF said medical experts were examining the results of gender tests on Semenya, who won the women’s 800 metres at last month’s World Championships in Berlin. No decision would be taken until late November.

“I think it would be the third world war. We will go to the highest levels in contesting such a decision. I think it would be totally unfair and totally unjust,” said Sports Minister Makhenkesi Stofile.

That’s totally the wrong choice of words, and I bet the Taliban dudes are scratching their heads wondering who this new player in the game is. ‘We fight the West for so long,’ I can imagine Wali-ur-Rehman telling Hakimullah Mehsud, ‘and South Africa is in the news for threatening the third world war. WTF?’

‘I know what we can do,’ says Hakimullah Mehsud. ‘Let’s turn you into a woman, and when those filthy Americans question your gender, we’ll also declare a third world war. He he he.’

‘You insult me, fool,’ roars Wali-ur-Rehman, ‘and for this you must die.’

You know the rest.

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No, but really, the issue at the heart of this is quite complex. Reportedly, “tests had found Semenya had no womb or ovaries, but that she had internal testes, the male sexual organs which produce testosterone, and her levels of the hormone were three times that of a ‘normal’ female.” This led Pierre Weiss, the secretary-general of the International Association of Athletics Federations, to say:

It is clear that she is a woman but maybe not 100 percent.

This brings up the thorny philosophical question of what makes a woman a woman. Do you have to have a womb? Is there a level of testosterone you cannot go over? Do men have to find you inexplicable? What is the meaning of a conclusion that someone is “maybe not 100 percent” as a woman? What’s the pass percentage?

And ya, sure, these peculiarities do give Semenya an advantage over fellow athletes—but there is no level playing field in sports anyway. Top sportspeople are often physically abnormal in some way or the other: Lance Armstrong’s heart is one-third larger than normal, for example, and his his aerobic capacity is twice that of a normal human. So is he more than 100 percent man, and therefore at an unfair advantage? If you start barring sportspeople for biological advantages they are born with, you’d cut down on a lot of the excellence and thrill of sport.

Anyway, I don’t care one way or another about the Semenya controversy. As long as Barack Obama doesn’t shift his troops from Afghanistan to South Africa, I’m okay.

(Link via email from Luv.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 12 September, 2009 in News | Politics | Small thoughts | Sport | WTF


Nigerian Scamster Pwns Indian Customs Official

You can’t make this shit up. Mumbai Mirror reports that the superintendent of Customs Intelligence has been scammed by a Nigerian scamster, and has “lost Rs 7.5 lakh to the racket that had declared him the winner of $1 million through a ‘lucky dip’ contest, which was organised by a certain Orange Communications Pvt Ltd.” The report adds:

The customs officer - whom we can’t name because he still hasn’t made an official statement - has now asked the police for a few more days before he believes that he has actually been cheated.

“He asks, ‘how can such a well-drafted email with the logo of Orange Communications be fake?’ He believes Orange Communications is the parent company of Vodafone, and since he has a Vodafone number, he is a natural beneficiary,” an officer with the JJ Marg Police Station disclosed.

“He even argued that the mail has a logo of the renowned Natwest Bank.”

My theory—he’s incredulous that an entity other than the government could possibly rob people on such a scale. The nerve!

Posted by Amit Varma on 11 September, 2009 in India | News | WTF


Who’s More Primitive?

Exhibit one:

Early humans may have taken a detour into Eurasia before embarking on their epic journey out of Africa, according to new fossil evidence.

Palaeontologists in Georgia have unearthed remains of five primitive humans that date back to 1.8m years ago, suggesting some of our oldest ancestors lived in the region at the time.

Exhibit two:

Squatting on his haunches, dhoti-clad and bare-chested, Mahendra Singh Tikait declares: “We live by a moral code where honour has to be protected at any cost.’’

As the chaudhary of the Baliyan khap, the 79-year-old farmer’s views matter. He presides over a system of justice that is almost medieval and disdains the laws of the Indian state.

Tikait’s moral code is simple. In his own words: [...] “Love marriages are dirty, I don’t even want to repeat the word… Only whores can choose their partners.”

To think this guy was once a politician with significant clout. Such it goes.

Posted by Amit Varma on 10 September, 2009 in India | News | Politics | WTF


SOS Facebook

UPI reports:

Australian authorities said two girls lost in a drainage well system used their phones to update their Facebook statuses instead of calling police.

Friends who saw their status updates then called the cops, who rescued the girls. An emergency services spokesman quoted in the piece is pissed because he thinks the girls should have called the cops first, and then done whatever else they wanted. He should realise that the girls were probably busy. Having posted their status updates, they were surely busy taking pictures for their wall. Priorities, you know?

(Link via Prem.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 10 September, 2009 in Miscellaneous | WTF


Sherlyn Chopra Means Business

I tweeted a couple of hours ago about the bizarrely headlined feature on Sherlyn Chopra (“Have Breasts, Will Talk”), but the most WTF thing about the article wasn’t any of the priceless quotes from Sherlyn, or the report’s inept attempts at eloquence, but the para at the end:

While it’s clear that the Internet is the way of the future, she has entered into an exclusive agreement with Times Internet Limited. Under this agreement exclusive mobile rights of all her mobile content lie with Times Internet Limited, specifically to be provisioned by Indiatimes 58888, on SMS, WAP, Voice and all operator platforms. “It’s a great honour! With most actresses shedding their inhibitions, there is a lot of competition on the internet. And I love it. It compels me to redefine excellence,” she says. You can follow more about Sherlyn. Get her mobile downloads, for example, send messages or listen to her thoughts, straight from her. Just call 58888799 or SMS SHERLYN to 58888. Call rates are Rs 7 per minute and SMS rates are up to Rs 3 per message.

This is ostensibly a feature article, mind you. So much for the wall between editorial and business.

Nevertheless, isn’t it delicious how they snuck that quote in the middle? Sherlyn has my best wishes for redefining excellence in the context she mentions.

Posted by Amit Varma on 10 September, 2009 in Arts and entertainment | Journalism | Media | WTF


Where Your Taxes Go: 41

On a Rs 42 crore mansion, on “a sprawling 1,00,000 sq ft area”, for Mayawati.

Outlook reports:

Mayawati’s latest mansion is to be seen to be believed. With 18-ft high stone walls and matching copper and brass gates, it looks more like a fortress on Mall Avenue, the most prized address in Lucknow. With every second house here having been taken over directly or indirectly by Mayawati—be it in the name of the Bahujan Trust or the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) office—her detractors, including Mulayam Yadav, have taken to calling the street ‘Maya Avenue’.

The chateau-like bungalow betrays Mayawati’s weakness for pink Dholpur stone and expensive granite.

‘Maya Avenue’ is a suitable name in more ways than one. The nugget I found most delicious in the report was that to make room for her bungalow, “Behenji ordered that the Sugarcane Commissioner’s office shift out from next door.” A sugarcane commissioner? Why the fug do we need a sugarcane commissioner anyway?

Mayawati has featured in the Where Your Taxes Go series before, here and here. I’m no longer surprised at the scale of her excesses, though. The way our political system is structured, it is entirely rational to enjoy the spoils of power after you get to such a post. We elect governments not to serve us, but to rule us. As long as that is so, our rulers will take full advantage.

(Link via email from Noor. For more on how our government loots us, click here.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 07 September, 2009 in India | News | Old memes | Taxes | Politics | WTF


Report Pe Report

The Guardian tells us:

The state of Texas requires a report on all the reports produced by its own agencies – all 1,600 of them – not forgetting the one by the chief inspector of tomatoes.

It’s quite a magnificent report, and I particularly love the last line:

The Required Reports Prepared by State Agencies and Institutions of Higher Education is not itself listed in the Required Reports Prepared by State Agencies and Institutions of Higher Education.

Bureaucracy at its most revealing. I can just imagine the conversation between the head boffin and his minion boffin.

Head Boffin: Minion, have you prepared your report on why our bureaucracy is such a lumbering, ancient beast?

Minion Boffin: Yes, Mr Head. It seems that we waste too many resources into producing unnecessary reports.

Head Boffin: Hmm. There is only way to sort this out. Do a report on the reports.

Minion Boffin: Yes, sir. And if that doesn’t solve the problem?

Head Boffin: Well, then we’ll just have to do a report on that.

Such it goes.

(Link via email from Udhay.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 07 September, 2009 in News | WTF


YSR Shock

The Times of India reports:

Shocked by the sudden and tragic end of their leader, 14 people died in different parts of Andhra Pradesh on Thursday. Six people died in East Godavari, five in Chittoor, while another YSR fan got a cardiac arrest in Vishakhapatnam. Two others died in Vizianagaram and Srikakulam.

[...]

A farmer from Kadapa, Narsaiah (75), who came to Piler on personal work along with his wife and children two days ago, died of cardiac arrest after hearing the tragic news. In Durgasamudram, Shankaramma (37), a daily wage labourer, who recently underwent a heart surgery under Arogyasri, died at around 6 pm.

A degree student, Laxminarayana (19), studying in Chittoor Government Degree College, consumed pesticide. “My son could not take the sad news and resorted to the extreme step,’’ his weeping mother C Lakshmamma said.

Quite bizarre. YSR was no MGR that people would kill himself over his death. It’s quite possible that many of these deaths, if not all, randomly happened around that time, and YSR’s people are building this narrative around them to embellish his legend. Why would a 19-year-old, with his whole life in front of him, kill himself because a political leader is dead? Fishy.

This could be the subject of a great farce. Imagine a novel that begins with the death of a political giant. His successors want to ensure that more people die on hearing this news than did for his predecessor. So they use the government machinery to set each district a target. Officials in those districts fan out looking for random deaths. Except in one thinly-populated district where everyone is in the pink of health. But the targets have to be met. So what to do?

Someday if I have the time…

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On another note, the eulogizing of YSR feels a bit weird. Listen, he was a top political leader who rose from the grassroots. Given the political system in this country, there is no way he could be anything but a thuggish megalomaniac. (Check out this old article by Swaminathan Aiyar about YSR’s rise to power.) Still, that’s how it goes.

(Links via Gaurav and Atanu respectively.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 04 September, 2009 in India | News | Politics | WTF


If You Ask Around

The New York Times has a bizarre story up now titled ‘Facebook Exodus’. The story begins:

Things fall apart; the center cannot hold. Facebook, the online social grid, could not command loyalty forever. If you ask around, as I did, you’ll find quitters. One person shut down her account because she disliked how nosy it made her. Another thought the scene had turned desperate. A third feared stalkers. A fourth believed his privacy was compromised. A fifth disappeared without a word.

The exodus is not evident from the site’s overall numbers.

Well, if you ask around, you’ll find people who believe that Israel planned 9/11, or the earth is flat, or that Christianity began in India and was originally called Krishnaniti. Really, WTF is a phrase like “if you ask around” doing in serious journalism? At least the story is honest enough to tell us that “the exodus is not evident from the site’s overall numbers”—but if there’s no exodus, there should also be no story, no?

I suspect the story emerged out of this classic template of how many feature stories are born:

1] Editor asks in his weekly meeting for ideas for stories.

2] Enthu young journo offers an idea: Facebook exodus!

3] Editor is excited. He roars, Do it, do it, let’s burst the bubble of the biggest thing going on the net!

4] Journo gets to work, interviews her pals who have left Facebook, feels good about all this. She crafts a smartass opening line. Everything’s going well till she sees the numbers, which reveal that the premise behind the story is wrong. There’s no Facebook exodus.

5] But so what? She won’t let the facts come in the way of an otherwise perfectly good feature story. And the editor doesn’t care—he’s not going to rush around now looking for a replacement story for that slot.

6] So boom, the story comes out, rich in anecdotes, poor in data.

I’ve seen this play out so often in my career, it’s not funny. Most journalists approach their stories with a preconceived notion of how it will turn out, and after that it’s a matter of getting the facts to fit the narrative, and not the other way around. Such it goes.

(Link via email from Jitendra Vaidya.)

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I certainly need to ditch Facebook, that’s for sure. Especially Scrabble. An extremely evil and immoral friend invited me to play a game a few days ago, and once hooked, I’ve played about 80 games since then with an 80% win record, and four Bingos in a row in the last game that I played. In all this time, work has suffered. I think I need to go cold turkey.

Or maybe I’ll just play one more before I stop…

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Update: On another note, zzzzzzz.

When are India Today and Outlook going to do their next social networking cover stories, I wonder.

(Link via email from Sudarshan.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 03 September, 2009 in Journalism | Media | Personal | WTF


Where Your Taxes Go: 40

On bribing people to delay having kids.

This is wrong on three levels:

One, the premise that population growth is a problem is mistaken. Malthus is dead in more ways than one.

Two, such social engineering is unethical. What business does the government have influencing the personal choices of people in this manner?

Three, that’s our money being spent there.

Coming to think of it, this whole business is a bit perverse even from the government’s point of view. They’re spending taxpayers’ money to ensure that there are less taxpayers in the future. WTF?

(For more on how our taxes are misused, click here.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 18 August, 2009 in Freedom | India | News | Old memes | Taxes | WTF


Exploring Rakhi’s Cleavage (And Babies For Rent)

India can’t get enough of Rakhi Sawant. After the swayamwar where she found herself a fiancee, she is now going to simulate being a parent on a reality show. Along with her man, Elesh Parujanwala, who was named by a Canadian Bong after his favourite fish, she is taking part in a show in which five celeb couples will spend time bringing up borrowed children on television. Check out this snippet from the news item:

Rakhi and the audience may be used to her infamous low-cut blouses, but obviously, the bachchas aren’t. And, as a source present at the launch of the programme told us, one baby couldn’t help but explore the territory! Embarrassing? You bet!

If the kid becomes a techie when he grows up, he’ll at least have prior work experience in silicon valley. And think of the TRPs of the show now, as millions of Indians tune in to live vicariously through a baby’s exploration.

*

Ribald jokes apart, this is one reality show concept that I find appalling. Are the parents of these kids actually renting their babies out? Other reality shows feature adults being placed in situations of their own volition—but babies? How could someone do that?

Parenthood is a massive responsibility, and it’s irresponsible to become a parent if you can’t live up to that. I see too many parents around me who are simply not ready for that role, who have unfairly screwed with their kids by bringing them on the planet. This is a fine illustration of that.

(Link via Arnab’s Facebook status message.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 11 August, 2009 in Arts and entertainment | India | Media | News | Small thoughts | WTF


Three Gujjus and a Mountain

I’m baffled by this headline:

3 Gujaratis prepare to conquer Everest.

If I was Gujju, I’d be offended that this should be considered newsworthy.

*

I’d also be offended if anyone made a joke about taking khakras to the summit, so I’ll resist.

Posted by Amit Varma on 11 August, 2009 in News | WTF


Men are From Venus

This is news?

Posted by Amit Varma on 11 August, 2009 in Journalism | Media | News | WTF


There’s a Tsunami Alert on the East Coast…

... and, at the time of posting this, most of the major Indian news sites have nothing on it. Twitter and Facebook are abuzz, but Rediff, The Times of India, The Hindustan Times and Indian Express are silent about it. The Hindu has breaking news updates on top, and credit to them for that.

Really, I can’t imagine this happening with the websites of The New York Times or The Guardian, if something comparable affected their countries. In India, our MSM outlets just don’t take their websites seriously enough. They make fun of Twitter and blogging every now and then, but aren’t on the ball themselves for something so important. What’s the point of having a website then?

(That’s a rhetorical question. I know the point is this. I’m just ranting.)

I hope this isn’t like 2004. I saw some of the aftermath, and some memories remain more vivid than I’d like. This earthquake is reportedly 7.6 on the Richter Scale, much less than the one in 2004—but you never know. People on the coast will obviously not get news of the alert from websites and TVs, and in any case, it’s the middle of the night. The government said, after the last one, that they have emergency plans in place for just such a contingency. Regardless of whether a tsunami actually strikes or not, it should be clear in the next few hours how nimble the machinery can be at a time like this.

Update (3.50am): ToI now has a headline on their homepage about it, so they’ve jumped into action as well.

Meanwhile, a couple of Pacific typhoons are also causing much havoc. Not a good day for the continent.

Posted by Amit Varma on 11 August, 2009 in India | Journalism | Media | WTF


General Bob And The Arrest Of Bhagat

The WTF report of the day is about one of the most delightful cons ever. Apparently, this dude named Aijaz Mehboob Khan convinced a bunch of people that he had been a buddy of Mahatma Gandhi and Subhash Chandra Bose and, having thus established his credentials, hoodwinked them of substantial sums of money. The dude is 29 years old, so how did he convince them? By showing them the newspaper report below:

image

In the case you find the print too small, the date reads “July 12, 1945.” And the caption says:

Mumbai: Congress President Mahatma Gandhi and the president of Azad Hind Party Aijaz Khan together in the rally at Mumbai Azad Maidan. And after the rally they went to meet General Bob for discussing about the arrest of Bhagat.

And yes, 10 people fell for this and gave the fellow Rs 50 lakh between them. Life is beautiful.

*

Imagine it’s true and Mahatma Gandhi and Aijaz Khan land up at General Bob’s office.

‘We have come to talk about the arrest of Bhagat,’ barks Aijaz.

‘Oh, Bhagat died 14 years ago,’ says General Bob. ‘But have a seat, have some tea with me.’ Then he shouts, ‘Bahadur, chai lao!’

General Bob now beams at Gandhiji. ‘You should meet Bahadur,’ he says. ’ He’s the last Mughal.’

Posted by Amit Varma on 02 August, 2009 in India | News | WTF


Where Your Taxes Go: 39

On a school for monkeys.

No, no, I’m not being rude, I mean that literally. The Punjab government has sanctioned Rs 1 crore “to set up an ultra-modern facility to tame, train, rehabilitate and teach manners to rogue monkeys.”

I agree that rogue monkeys are a problem—no Varun Gandhi jokes here, please—but I don’t see why so much of my taxes should go towards teaching them manners. What next, finishing schools for stray dogs? Reservations for all of them in government posts?

That said, I wouldn’t have minded it if they’d started this school a couple of years ago. They could then have sent a graduate or two to Rakhi Ka Swayamwar.

(Link via email from Varun. For more posts on how our taxes are misused, click here.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 24 July, 2009 in India | News | Old memes | Taxes | Politics | WTF


You Gotta Do Sach Ka Saamna

Here’s the WTF headline of the day:

Politicians want ban on Sach Ka Saamna

Sach Ka Saamna is the recently started Hindi version of The Moment of Truth, and is riveting once you start watching it—even if it does overlap with that other reality show, Is Jungle Se Mujhe Bachao. So what problem do our politicians have with it? Well, Kamal Akhtar, a Samajwadi Party MP, doesn’t like it that “obscene questions are asked by the anchor of the programme.”

“The host asked a woman in the presence of her husband if she would have physical contacts with another person to which she said no,” he said. “But her polygraph test said the answer was wrong. What kind of impression would it have created?” He sought a complete ban on the show.

I don’t get it—on whose behalf is Akhtar complaining? The participants of the show take part in full knowledge of the risks they incur, and that’s a choice for them to make. As for viewers, well, Akhtar is being hugely condescending when he assumes that we impressionable folks will be swayed by the show into infidelity, or suchlike. Listen, we already know what the world is like; we already know what human beings are like; we understand our urges, and know the consequences of giving in to them. Akhtar may want to foist a fantasy world upon us where nobody has anything to hide and everybody speaks only the truth—but that world does not exist, and is faker than the fakest Ekta Kapoor serial.

If anything, Sach Ka Saamna drives home the truth that most human relations contain some element of deception. In a viscerally direct way, it reveals the human condition. That can only help us become better human beings—to begin with, it might make us a little less sanctimonious.

That’s a matter of opinion, of course. Some people may hate the show, and are entitled to do so. But that is where the matter should end—not in calls for a ban. If Akhtar is so disturbed by Sach Ka Saamna, I have a suggestion for him—change the channel.

Or actually, no. He might then catch Is Jungle Se Mujhe Bachao and demand a ban on that because it reminds him of parliament.

(Link via email from Arshdeep.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 24 July, 2009 in Arts and entertainment | Freedom | India | News | Politics | Small thoughts | WTF


‘A Whole New World Of Khakras’

Chandni Parekh recently forwarded me a hilarious press release she received on behalf of the actor Purab Kohli. Given that press releases are intended for the public domain, I’m reproducing it in full here, typos, spellos and grocers’ apostrophes intact, for the charm of it:

Hi

Please find below a small snippet on Purab Kolhi. He is currently shooting in Ahmedabd

Fun time khakra time.

Do you know that Purab is a big fan of: khakra’s. He always has them on shoots. He’s even got his regular supplier in Bombay who he keeps getting refills from.

But now in the heart of Gujarat he is discovering a whole new world of khakra’s. He just can’t stop eating them on the sets of Hide and seek Apurva lakhia’s co production with Moser Baer. Purab has been shooting in a farm house where he is finishing the family’s stock for the year. “They have hidden secrets here, have you tried the muthiya khakra’s” says Purab over the phone.

Looks like he’s going to come back with excess baggage.

I wonder if poor Kohli knows what his PR man is up to? Really, is this what we’ve come down to when it comes to promoting films? Khakras? (Or even khakra’s?)

*

In more serious news, The Times of India asks: Will Sonam Kapoor wear a bikini?

*

Who knows, one day all this may come together in the headline, “Will Purab Kohli wear a bikini?” (Or “Will Sonam Kapoor wear a Khakra?”) Today’s parody is tomorrow’s headline, so don’t laugh, who knows?

*

Update (July 23): ToI carries the khakra story. Wow.

(Via Chandni, again.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 22 July, 2009 in Arts and entertainment | India | Journalism | Media | News | WTF


Sikhs In Hindi Cinema

Charan Singh Sapra, the president of the Punjabi Cultural and Heritage Board, is upset with “the continuing demeaning portrayal of the Sikh character in Hindi cinema.” ToI reports:

If a script demands a character to be a Sikh, then the community is more than willing to help filmmakers, Sapra adds. “We will guide them exactly how to portray a Sikh. Thus, they won’t end up hurting sentiments.”

Immense goofiness. All good storytelling is about flawed characters—so why should every Sikh in a film be a perfect Sikh? Mr Sapra doesn’t understand that films are about individuals, that a Sikh character in a film doesn’t represent all of Sikhdom, and is not meant to be representative. If Ranbir Kapoor plays a Sikh in a film, he is not implying that all Sikhs are like that character, any more than The Godfather implies that all Italians are gangsters or Borat implies that everyone from Kazakhstan wears a mankini to the beach.

And really, what is all this talk of ‘hurting sentiments’? I think most Sikhs are too sensible and mature to be hurt by something they see in a film, and sensitive Mr Sapra is probably not representative of his community. Maybe someone should guide him on ‘how to portray a Sikh’?

*

That said, Sapra is right when he says that Bollywood often stereotypes Sikhs. But mainstream Hindi cinema stereotypes almost everything, and Bollywood stereotypes of Sikhs, from what I can recall right now, seem to be largely positive, portraying them as robust, jovial and kind-hearted folk. What’s the problem with that?

Posted by Amit Varma on 22 July, 2009 in Arts and entertainment | India | News | WTF


Criminalizing Zardari Jokes

IANS reports:

It would seem that in Pakistan, there is nothing you need to watch out for more than making a joke about President Asif Ali Zardari by SMS (Short Messaging Service).

If you mistakenly, or just for fun, share with a friend one of the hundreds of derisory jokes about the leader floating around electronically, you could get a 14-year prison sentence.

Pakistan’s interior minister Rehman Malik announced last week that the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has been tasked to trace SMS (or text messages) and e-mails that “slander the political leadership of the country” under the vague Cyber Crimes Act. In addition to facing up to 14 years in the jail, violators could have their property seized, Malik said, adding that the government would seek Interpol assistance in deporting foreign offenders.

I think whatever the jail sentence announced for each accused person, Zardari himself should be made to serve 10 percent of it.

*

I particularly like this Zardari joke from the report above:

Robber: Give me all your money!

Zardari: Don’t you know who I am? I am Asif Ali Zardari!

Robber: Okay. Give me all my money!

Oops, wait, I’d better watch it, or there’ll be an Interpol notice out on me for having a Zardari joke on my blog. Maybe Pakistan will suggest a Lakhvi for Varma swap. We’ll give you the terrorist mastermind, they could say, if you hand over the blogger who dared to joke about our esteemed president.

(Link via separate emails from Mihir Modi and Luv.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 20 July, 2009 in Freedom | Politics | WTF


‘The Process Of Population Growth’

Speaking of euphemisms, here’s a masterful one from a WTF quote by India’s health and family welfare minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad:

Electricity in our villages can help control population growth. Electricity will lead to television in houses, which will lead to population control. When there is no light, people get engaged in the process of population growth.

So the next time you want to ask someone to get in bed with you, don’t be crude, don’t say something like Let’s bonk or I want to get into your pants or Let’s make laowe, baybeh, or suchlike. No, just look serious and wonkish and say, Would you like to engage in the process of population growth with me?

Doesn’t that sound much classier? No? Okay, never mind.

*

And while on Azad’s quote, it’s WTF for two reasons:

One, the government has no business regulating what consenting adults do in their bedrooms, whether this relates to sexual practices or procreative choices. How many kids a couple wants to have should be that couple’s decision alone. Anything else is a violation.

Two, despite what we’re taught in school, India’s problem is not its population. Every new child born anywhere is an invaluable resource, and in the right sort of environment, this resource produces more than it consumes. We don’t need to control population growth; instead, we need to work at creating an environment where every person has the scope to unleash his or her full potential.

For an elaboration on this, do read this old piece by me, The Population Myth.

(Link via separate emails from Ganesh Hegde, WrestlingMind and Luv.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 20 July, 2009 in India | News | Politics | WTF


Boob Euphemisms and Nip Slips Without Nips

A few days ago, readers Anoop Bhat and Kaushal Desai separately emailed me to point me to this marvellous gallery by The Times of India:

Biggest assets in Hollywood.

It’s a gallery about big breasts in Hollywood, and the captions are quite hilarious. Note the many euphemisms for boobs that they use, clichés and variations on clichés, all of them: ‘steaming big naturals’; ‘twin assets’ (three times); ‘busty bosom’; ‘hot twin peaks’; ‘accentuating curves’; ‘enhanced fuller twins’; ‘real nice set of bombs’; and so on. I wonder if copy editors are trained in this kind of writing—I’d really like to see the manual.

*

And today, I came across a completely WTF gallery:

Celebs Peek-A-Boo Moments.

This is a gallery of ostensible nip slips—with ToI blurring out the nips when they slip. Given that this is an internet gallery, and that the uncovered nips are a search away, this is most bizarre. Why have a gallery of nip slips and cover the nips? What’s the point?

(Note that I noticed the gallery only due to my purely academic interest in WTFness. That’s not the kind of headline you expect to see on India’s No. 1 newspaper site. I have no interest in nips or twin assets. Really.)

*

ToI‘s galleries are rather interesting from a sociological perspective, actually. Here’s another one:

B’wood’s desirable bed partners.

The captions, the captions…

Posted by Amit Varma on 20 July, 2009 in Arts and entertainment | India | Journalism | Media | WTF


‘Aggressive By Nature’

Via Dilip, I come across this astonishing statement made by Shiney Ahuja’s lawyer, Shrikant Shivde, about the girl he is alleged to have raped:

She belongs to a lower caste, which is aggressive by nature, and she wouldn’t have submitted herself so easily. They are known for being aggressive.

You know, I don’t care now whether Ahuja is guilty or he’s being framed. A side that makes an argument like this deserves to get its ass kicked. They should lock Ahuja up and throw away the key—and if he feels horny all alone in his cell, throw in Shivde.

Posted by Amit Varma on 10 July, 2009 in Arts and entertainment | India | News | WTF


‘We Keep Marrying Other Species’

The American TV show Fox and Friends is often funnier than Saturday Night Live—unintentionally. Check out Brian Kilmeade expounding on America’s marital habits:

And here’s another classic ramble from Kilmeade a few days ago on the Iran crisis. ‘This guy does not get along with that guy’ is the most coherent it gets—it’s spectacularly downhill after that.

*

And moving to Indian television, I’m hooked to that incredible trainwreck of a show, Rakhi Ka Swayamwar. So much WTFness abounds that I’m craving normalcy by the end of it. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out on YouTube, most of the episodes so far seem to be available there

This is going to be one reality show where I’m going to feel sorry for the winner—even though he’ll at least be marrying into the same species.

Posted by Amit Varma on 09 July, 2009 in Arts and entertainment | WTF


Yoga’s Greatest Challenge

Can it cure Baba Ramdev?

(Link via email from Mahendra Shikaripur.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 08 July, 2009 in Freedom | India | News | WTF


Savita Bhabhi Fights Censorship

A dull government office. A pot-bellied bureaucrat in a safari suit sits behind a table on which many dusty files are gathered. Sweat gathers on his upper lip; he is too lazy to wipe it off. There is a knock on the door. ‘Come in,’ he says.

The door opens, and the bureaucrat gasps. A stunning young woman, bootilicious, bodacious, mammacious, walks into the room, in a red chiffon saree on which the palloo seems an inadequate afterthought, wearing a low-cut blouse that almost need not be there.

‘Good morning,’ she says. ‘Are you the Chief Secretary of Internet Banning in India?’

‘Yes. Yes, yes, yes! But who are you?’

‘I am Savita Bhabhi. I believe you have banned me. I thought I should pay you a personal visit to ask you why you have done such a thing.’

‘Savita Bhabhi? Wow! My God! Er, sorry, what was your question again?’

‘Why have you banned me?’

‘Er, you see, actually, Indian culture, our traditions…’

‘Oh, I am so sorry,’ says Savita Bhabhi. ‘You are my elder, and tradition says I should touch your feet.’

She goes up to him—he is standing, in his excitement, pun intended—and bends down to touch his feet. Her tender caress of his toe is unbearably erotic. Her palloo falls. An expanse of the most beautiful, bountiful flesh rises up to meet him—and brushes for the briefest moment against a certain nameless appendage. Her lips, broad, red, inviting, open up seductively just in front of him, as she moves in closer, and he feels like he will explode. And then she says:

‘So, once again, what are your reasons for banning me?’

*

Right, you get where I’m coming from. India Uncut is a fan of Savita Bhabhi, as my many posts on that fine lady indicate (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13.). And I’m appalled that she has been banned. And the chief reason that I’m appalled is that we don’t know why she has been banned.

If the government takes any action against an individual or an entity, there should be due process. If the government wants to ban a website, it should clearly state why it is doing so, and what provisions of the law make it possible. And the owners of that website should have a right of appeal.

That is not the case here: Deshmukh, who runs the Savita Bhabhi site, does not know why it has been banned, and has no means of appeal. This is arbitary, this is wrong—and it could happen to any of us tomorrow.

On that note, do read this excellent piece by Sevanti Ninan on Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008, which should worry anyone who cares about free speech in India. Savita Bhabhi should drop in and say hi to A Raja, you think?

*

And in some WTF coverage of this, click here, scroll down and read what “cyber law expert” Mukesh Goyal has to say on the matter. Especially his third and fourth paras. I’m speechless!

Posted by Amit Varma on 02 July, 2009 in Freedom | India | News | WTF


No More Pockets

Archana Sinha writes in:

Nepal has ordered its customs officials to wear pocketless pants, with a view to discouraging bribes. You know what’s gonna happen now, don’t you? The sales of underwear with inbuilt pockets will go up! Where there is law, there is jugaad.

Senior customs official to his deputy: Is that a bulge in your pants or are you just happy to see me.

Lady customs officers could just put the currency notes in their bra. I demand that bras also be banned.

Posted by Amit Varma on 30 June, 2009 in News | WTF


Bollywood Crimes

The Hindustan Times reports:

Varun Gandhi’s infamous hate speech and journalist Soumya Vishwanathan’s murder will be made into a film titled Ganatantra, being directed by JP Dutta’s assistant Surender Suri.

Rajan Verma, who essayed the role of Kasab in Total Ten, a film on the 26/11 terror attacks, is now playing Varun Gandhi. He says, “The film shows Gandhi in positive light.. as an able man, not given the place he deserves in the political party. The film will also depict a love story between the characters played by Varun and Soumya.”

The only thing not WTF about the above excerpt is that the actor who played Kasab is now playing Varun Gandhi. The rest of it leaves me speechless. I especially wonder what poor Soumya’s friends and family feel about this. Who thinks up these storylines?

*

That isn’t the only WTFness in that article. A gentleman named Kanti Shah is quoted as saying:

Yes, I am making a film on the Shiney Ahuja rape case. Shooting will begin soon. It is titled Rape and newcomers Imran and Sapna will play the characters of Shiney and the maid. Although the film will be based on true events and there will be no fictitious details added, there will be song and dance sequences.

Go figure. ‘Tasteless’ doesn’t begin to describe these guys. I need a plastic bag.

Posted by Amit Varma on 27 June, 2009 in Arts and entertainment | India | Media | News | WTF


Questioning The Astrologer

Oh man, this is delicious. AFP reports:

Sri Lankan police say they have arrested an astrologer after he predicted serious political and economic problems for the government of President Mahinda Rajapakse.

[...]

“The CID (Criminal Investigations Department) is questioning the astrologer,” [police spokesman Ranjith] Gunasekara said Friday, adding that they wanted to find out the “basis” for the prediction.

I can just imagine how the dialogue goes.

Astrologer: [Pointing to chart] See, here’s the basis for my prediction. Note where Rahu-Ketu are.

CID officer: We have outlawed Rahu-Ketu.

Astrologer: Eh? When did this happen?

CID officer: Five minutes before this interrogation began. Hehehe. Bet you didn’t see that happening.

No, but seriously, the government is crazy, clamping down on free speech like this, even if it is the free speech of a charlatan. Even charlatans have rights.

(Link via email from Neel. And previously, in Rahu-Ketu news...)

Posted by Amit Varma on 27 June, 2009 in Dialogue | Freedom | News | Old memes | Astrology etc | Politics | WTF


Faith And The Monsoon

The Times of India reports:

With the monsoon playing truant, Andhra Pradesh CM YS Rajasekhara Reddy has ordered all temples, mosques and churches in the state to offer special prayers to appease the Rain God. Starting form Wednesday, the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams will conduct prayers in all major temples run by it. Special prayers are to be held in mosques and churches for the onset of the elusive monsoon.

And The Hindustan Times:

As strange as it may sound, some organisations and individuals from Andhra Pradesh are taking help of frogs to induce rains.

In Vemulwada town in Karimnagar district, hundreds of people participated in a frog marriage on a dried up tank bed. Reports of similar marriages came in from Kurnool, Adilabad and Anantapur. It is widely believed by rural folk that frog marriages will bring in good rains.

You know where this is headed, don’t you? Hazaar prayers will be conducted across AP, and hazaar frogs will be married off—and then it will rain. And people will conclude that the prayers worked, and getting the frogs married off worked—never mind if the frogs in questions are ignoring their nuptial vows and bonking random other frogs. Post hoc ergo propter hoc—that, and the confirmation bias, explain why we’re still such suckers for superstition of all sorts.

Maybe I should also conduct a ritual of some sort that can later be sanctified after its glorious success. Hmm, let’s see, what can I do? Ah, I have it: A beef burger at Indigo Cafe, medium rare with a fried egg on top, sunny side up. Followed by some liquor chocolate, and maybe coffee at Costa’s. There you go, I’ve sorted it out. Just you watch now, there will be rain.

(My thanks to Sandeip Singh for the ToI link.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 25 June, 2009 in India | News | Old memes | Astrology etc | WTF


Denise Richards And Bollywood Kissers

IANS reports:

Former Bond girl Denise Richards has done some passionate scenes with Bollywood star Akshay Kumar in Kambakkht Ishq and says he is a good kisser.

Richards insists that no man in Bollywood can match his skills, reported contactmusic.com.

I’m guessing Richards must have done a rigorous survey of Bollywood kissers to come to such a conclusion. Like, she walks into a mall and catches a good-looking young man (GLYM) who looks like he might be in Bollywood (but isn’t really).

Richards: Hey, you there. Are you a Bollywood kisser?

GLYM: Er, well, ahem, yes, I could be.

Richards: Okay, then I need to kiss you. [She gives him the deepest kiss ever, her tongue almost coming out of the back of his head.] Mmmm. That was nice, but I’m afraid you’re not as good as Akshay Kumar.

GLYM: I see. Um, well, there is something I can do better than him, you know.

Richards: [Already getting ideas and feeling horny] And what may that be?

GLYM: Um, do you need any C++ programming?

*

Bonus link: Check out these slideshows about “Bollywood’s most kissable celebs”: From Rediff; and AOL. Any excuse to put together a slideshow with hot pictures.

Posted by Amit Varma on 25 June, 2009 in Arts and entertainment | News | WTF


More Than 100 Percent

Iran’s governing council needs a PR firm pronto. The political gaffe of the week comes from their spokesman Abbas-Ali Kadkhodaei, who said the following words in a TV interview on Sunday:

Statistics provided by the candidates, who claim more than 100% of those eligible have cast their ballot in 80-170 cities are not accurate—the incident has happened in only 50 cities.

In a democracy, if you can’t prove that there’s been rigging in a majority of the cities, then there’s been no rigging. So there.

(Link via FiveThirtyEight.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 24 June, 2009 in News | Politics | WTF


Of Axes And Landmines

The WTF quote of the day comes from Chhatradhar Mahato, the head of a tribal organisation in Lalgarh, PCAPA:

If you take a close look at the PCAPA’s ‘warriors’, they carry traditional arms like axes, spears, bows and arrows etc, whereas Maoists use landmines and other sophisticated weapons—there is hardly any similarity between the two.

Ah, well. The PCAPA, by the way, stands for the noble-sounding People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities. And on the subject of the police, Mahato had this to say:

Should they arrest me, Lalgarh will be torn apart by violence, hitherto unseen and unheard of.

If India had a language police, and I was in charge, I’d arrest him just for using the word ‘hitherto’. So there.

(Link via Jasmine.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 23 June, 2009 in India | News | WTF


Ocean’s Pig

The WTF headline of the day comes from PTI:

George Clooney hires psychic to connect with dead pig

The report says that Clooney has “hired a psychic to help him contact his favourite pet, a black pig named Max who died three years ago.”

I can just imagine how it all plays out. Clooney and his psychic are sitting at an ouija board in a dark room.

Psychic: George, I will tap on the board three times to say hello, and then you will hear three more taps on the board. After that, my body will be possessed by Max’s spirit, and you can talk to Max through me. Ok?

Clooney: Okay. But you know what, don’t mind and all, but I’m a skeptic about these things. So first I’ll ask you, I mean Max, a couple of questions to make sure it’s him.

Psychic: Sure. [He taps three times on the board. Three more taps are heard after that, and then the psychic throws his head back as his eyes start rolling in their sockets.]

Clooney: [Very excited] Max, Max, is that you?

Psychic: Squeal!

Clooney: Max, Max, I need to ask you a question. Are you listening?

Psychic: Grunt!

Clooney: Max, Max, when you saw me for the first time, what were your first words to me?

Psychic: Oink oink!

Clooney: Max! Max! It’s really you! [He hugs the psychic, who dirties his pants, thereby increasing Clooney’s ferocious nostalgia.]

*

Ok, fine, that’s a bit cruel. George, if you’re reading this and are offended, I apologize. But really, dude, a psychic to contact your dead pig—what were you thinking?

(Link via email from Mahendra.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 23 June, 2009 in Arts and entertainment | Dialogue | News | WTF


It’s All In The Jeans

The WTF quote of the week comes from Meeta Jamal, the principal of a girls’ college in Kanpur:

Girls who choose to wear jeans will be expelled from the college. This is the only way to stop crime against women.

According to the report, “a growing number of colleges in Uttar Pradesh have decided to outlaw jeans, shorts, tight blouses and miniskirts on campus in an attempt to crack down on ‘Eve-teasing’.” The theory seems to be that boys see chicas in supposedly hot clothing, and as they have no control over their actions, commit crimes for which the girls’ clothes are responsible. Not the boys. Well, well.

The simplest way to stop crime against women is of course to ban the women themselves, not their jeans. After all, if a pair of jeans came to college without a woman inside, would it get harassed? Clearly not. So why ban the jeans?

(Link via email from Vishal Khanapure.)

Update: Rohan informs me that one college has even “banned male students from wearing jeans and carrying mobiles.” What to say now?

Posted by Amit Varma on 11 June, 2009 in India | News | WTF


Mischa Barton vs Rajan Zed

The WTF report of the day, by ANI, begins:

Actress Mischa Barton has enraged Hindus around the world, after she cribbed on her blog about not getting a sitar teacher in India.

Hindus around the world? That seemed like a tall claim to me, so I read further, expecting details to support this strange assertion. But no, the text then went on to elaborate that Barton’s comments had “enraged leading scholars,” and then quoted exactly one self-styled leading scholar on the subject, “US Hindu statesman Rajan Zed.” Given Zed’s history of seeking publicity (1, 2, for example), I don’t think Barton should worry too much about what Hindus think of her. Hindus around the world are not enraged. In fact, some of them are probably searching for nipslip pictures of her as I type these words.

More Zed: Check out these recent headlines where Zed claims to be speaking out on behalf of Hindus:

Tantra is not just sex: Upset Hindus tell actress Heather Graham
Hindus Consider Worldwide Sony Boycott

The dude who writes his press releases must be quite pleased with himself.

Posted by Amit Varma on 11 June, 2009 in Journalism | Media | Old memes | WTF


The Creaking Fan

It’s news when a rich industrialist’s wife spends a night in jail like this:

In the barrack, Sheetal [Mafatlal] was made to sleep on a thin, prickly coir mattress with around 50 hardcore criminals and a swarm of mosquitoes for company.

The creaking fan overhead, jail sources say, moves too slowly to beat the collective heat of bodies and the stench around, thanks to gutkha-chewing undertrials.

But it’s not news when other undertrials, innocent until proven guilty, have to spend nights, even weeks, months, perhaps years in such conditions. That’s the real scandal, but we take it for granted, we know the system’s broken. But when Mrs Mafatlal has to spend a night in such conditions, going chheee in a prison cell instead of mua at a party, that’s newsworthy. See now.

Posted by Amit Varma on 10 June, 2009 in India | Journalism | Media | News | WTF


Dear VS Ugrappa

Dear VS Ugrappa

Deccan Herald reports that, in your capacity as leader of the Opposition in Karnataka’s Legislative Council, you have demanded that the government provides you with a Nissan X-Trail car for your use, which will cost the taxpayers Rs 25 lakhs. To justify this demand, you have said: “All I want is a diesel car which gives maximum mileage so that I can save on fuel.”

Sir, I applaud your sentiment, and I have a suggestion for you: ask for a Tata Indica instead. Diesel is there, and mileage is better.

Regards

Amit Varma

*

Link via email from Sreekanth Menon. More open letters here.

Posted by Amit Varma on 08 June, 2009 in India | Letters | News | Politics | WTF


Bathroom, Bedroom

Via Prem Panicker’s Twitter, I come across this marvellous news story:

Now, daring couples can bathe in bedrooms!

The story tells us about this new trend of “an open-planned bathroom-bedroom” that “features a deep-soaker bath, double vanity, frameless shower, and strategically-placed toilet—all in full sight of the king-size bed.”

I experienced something similar to this during my recent book tour. In three of the five cities I went to, I was booked into a five-star hotel chain that had rooms with varying degrees of, um, openness between the bathroom and the bedroom. In Delhi, the bathroom partition was translucent, and you could see the silhouette of the person inside. This might be considered romantic if your partner is bathing inside—but surely not for other activities. And what if there were guests in the room?

Worse, you couldn’t lock the door. And there were no hooks or rods inside to hang clothes. I suspect the designers thought of this as a feature, not a bug.

Also, there was no noise insulation whatsoever. So if you’d had rajma and rice for lunch, and went into the loo to let some of it out, anyone in the room would not only see you, they’d also hear you.

This led to an embarrassing episode on the afternoon of my Delhi launch, when my Hachette editor was hanging out with me in my room while the partner napped on the bed. But I won’t go into details here. We’re all still scarred by the incident.

The Kolkata branch of the hotel had completely transparent bathroom doors and walls—glass so clear you could walk into it—but the bathroom section could be shut off from the bedroom by sliding a substantial wooden door shut (again, unlockable). This was fairly heavy, and could easily have been used as a line of defence in a medieval fortress. I was staying alone in the room, and embarrassing moments did not arise. Also, there was no rajma, and the sushi was good.

Anyway, I guess I’m just growing old, and young people like open bathrooms and all that. Fine. Whatever. I’ll just blog about the good old days then.

Posted by Amit Varma on 04 June, 2009 in Personal | WTF


Where Your Taxes Go: 38

On gold rings for all children born in city corporation hospitals in Chennai and given Tamil names. This is a move by the Tamil Nadu government to “commemorate the 86th birthday celebrations of chief minister M Karunanidhi,” who has been “working to promote Tamil language for more than 70 years.”

Meanwhile, it seems that since last September, 11000 newborns have been given “dresses, baby soap and baby powder.”

No doubt you are outraged at this use of your taxes. Perhaps you are thinking, Hell, if someone wants to promote Tamil or give baby powder to newborns, let him do so with his own money. Why mine?

I urge you to stop protesting. This is all for the good of society. And I further propose, inspired by the legendary altruist Jonathan Swift, that we take a step further and use these newborns to end all starvation deaths in India. How so? Well, to quote Swift:

A young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee, or a ragout.

In an Indian context, you could have Tandoori Toddler, Baby Biriyani or Kadai Kiddo with naan. To promote Tamil culture, you could also have Infant Idlis. Boom, no more starvation deaths in India.

Yes, that’s disgusting. No, I’m not serious. But the Tamil Nadu government is, and the cup of the absurd runneth over.

(Link via email from Shyam. More on taxes.)

Posted by Amit Varma on 04 June, 2009 in India | News | Old memes | Taxes | Politics | WTF


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